I woke up in the dark at 5.45am thinking about death. Specifically I was recalling my Aunty Maggie who would proclaim at every funeral, "ah well, we're all born to die". At the time I was young enough to believe that there was lots of time laid up in store and so I thought this was most peculiar. "Not so odd now, John," I thought to myself. No doubt the thought was inspired by the Mass in the Iglesia del Carmen last night. The Church was packed and the priest explained that the mother of the family present Maria Angeles had died a few days earlier. As is the Spanish custom they had buried her almost immediately. This was now the funeral Mass. I watched the faces particularly of the women. Stoic. As if set against the inevitable hurt that nature brings to everyone.
My mind was drawn then and this morning to another family in London who had lost their mum and buried her only a week ago. This is the loveliest of families made all the more painfully beautiful as they stood together, dignified and etched with grief.
It was an honour to be with them at the funeral and they remain very much in my thoughts.
Strangely though these weren't melancholic thoughts just some of the surprising array we experience walking these pilgrimage routes.
A breakfast we had prepared last night was consumed and we set off at 7.30am. It was fully light, the thermometer read 18 degrees and there was a light breeze. Perfect walking weather.
It took us about 2km walking gradually but steadily uphill to reach what appears to be the start of the measurement of the 31km to Segovia. This additional 30 mins walking doesn't really matter at the start of the day. It sure does at the end!
We ascended 650 metres in about 8km - steep but able to be walked at a steady rate. As we rose higher so did the sun. We were on forest paths then the old Roman Road. By 9am the path and the new day was bathed in sunlight. The mountain air was clear and cool. A final push and we were up. YES!
The sign confirmed we would walk a further 23km to Segovia. The route then proceeded to take us down gradually and gently through pine forests and open tracks. Then the final straight stretch right into the heart of Segovia.
The whole route is well waymarked and this is a stage to be enjoyed if a long day is planned as rests are needed.
And I never thought again about Aunty Maggie until I wrote this. She's still around of course!